During the 2015-2016 school year, Boulder Journey School mentors and directors formed a research group, centered around the book, Leading Anti-Bias Early Childhood Programs: A Guide for Change (Early Childhood Education) by Louise Derman-Sparks, Debbie LeeKeenan, and John Nimmo. In the 2016-2017 school year, this group expanded to include families’ and graduate students’ voices, examining the goals of Anti-Bias Education.
John Nimmo, EdD, Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Education, in the Graduate School of Education at Portland State University, Oregon and a recipient of the Social Justice Award and the Excellence through Diversity Award at University of New Hampshire, has been working with Boulder Journey School as we engage in these dialogues.
In January, 2017, John visited Boulder and met with over 25 Boulder Journey School mentors, graduate students, and parents to discuss anti-bias education, why it is important, and special considerations when engaging in anti-bias education in a school for young children.
We reflected on how we respond when there are differing points of view in one classroom.
We wondered if we have a responsibility to model that many points of view can exist together peacefully, in the classroom and in the world.
We were curious if parents anticipate that their children may learn about perspectives that are different from their own while at school.
To further the conversations, we discussed possible responses to the following classroom scenarios:
- A teacher invites parents to share the holiday music that they listen to at home in order to play the same music in the classroom. A parent responds that this is a fantastic idea, as long as none of the music is religious. Is it appropriate to ban one family’s religious beliefs from the class but not another family’s support of gay marriage, knowing that these two families have quite different value systems?
- How do we respond when a child asks if a girl can be a boy? If a girl can marry a girl? Why some people don’t have homes? Why people have different skin colors?
We used the goals listed below as points of reference:
THE GOALS OF ANTI-BIAS EDUCATION
- Each child will demonstrate self-awareness, confidence, family pride, and positive social identities.
- Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity, accurate language for human differences and deep, caring human connections.
- Each child will increasingly recognize unfairness, have language to describe unfairness, and understand that unfairness hurts.
- Each child will demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act, with others or alone, against prejudice and/or discrimination.
THE GOALS OF AN ANTI-BIAS EDUCATOR
- Increase your awareness and understanding of your own social identity in its many facets and your own cultural contexts, both childhood and current.
- Examine what you have learned about difference, connection, and what you enjoy and fear across lines of human diversity.
- Identify how you have been advantaged or disadvantaged by the “isms” (e.g. racism, sexism, etc) and the stereotypes or prejudices you have absorbed about yourself and others.
- Explore your ideas, feelings, and experiences of social justice activism.
- Open up a dialogue with colleagues and families about all these goals.
We value holding a space for conversations around these questions and goals and are grateful to the multiple perspectives shared and analyzed by the voices of our mentors, graduate students, and families.